Are We Where We Are? A reflection by Chris O’Connell

If you don’t know by now (…then where have you been?!!) Are We Where We Are (AWWWA) started in May 2017 and continues through 2018. The project consists of 9 theatre works commissioned for the stage, utilising a variety of forms for performance through monologue, duologue, a devised ensemble production, and 6 short form theatre pieces written and performed by writers, as if they stand at the window of their world, sharing with us the world that they see.

It’s been immensely exciting to so far have produced 4 of the 9 commissions. The depth and breadth of the subject matters from our four writers has deepened our understanding of the programme. The writers to date have been:

Jules Orcullo – May Utang (May 2017)

Laila Alj – I Am Here (June 2017)

Rabiah Hussain – Where I Live And What I Live For (October 2017)

Sarah Woods – Under The Carpet (November 2017).

AWWWA is inspired by American novelist Henry David Thoreau’s quote ‘We are not where we are, but in a false position’ and the four four pieces to date have conjured considerations and provocations across race, equality, gender, belonging, justice, and our undeniable commonality. They have led to some fascinating feedback and panel discussions with our audiences and the artists involved, giving us a sense that here and now, in the 2nd decade of this new century, the themes of AWWWA are very much alive and pertinent.

The notion that a company as small and delicate as Theatre Absolute, with no core funds and a disused shop space with very little infrastructure can produce these 9 new pieces fills me with pride. What is important is not only to offer the commissions, but to get new work on its feet before an audience. I understand very well the culture that the development of new work often exists in; writers are seeded, developed, scratched, but my own development and learning has been gained first and foremost by the exposure of my work being placed before an audience. Our aim from day one has been to create a critical mass, a boiling point of voices that creates an arena in which to learn and gain experience. It has also been to forge a conversation, and I think if you’ve got along to all or any of the 4 so far, you’ll agree that AWWWA is intensely provocative, fast moving, and both audiences and artists involved have been really up for it.

We’re at a kind of halfway point but we’ve still got a lot of work to do, and remain determined to ensure the second half of Are We Where We Are is as stimulating as the first half has been.

The fifth piece can be seen on 25th January, when Chris Thorpe will be at the Shop Front Theatre to deliver his stand alone piece, Yellowstone. On the 6th February, my play Choke will open and run until the 14th February, with the rest of the AWWWA programme performed throughout 2018.

Sincere thanks to our funding partners on the project: Arts Council England, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Belgrade Theatre, Talking Birds and Coventry City Council.